In last week’s post we talked about how the American Academy of Neurology has taken a hard stance against racism and other systemic inequities.

The organization is providing educational resources and encouraging its members to take up the call to improve healthcare equity in neurology by making their workplaces more equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

More recently, the AAN has turned its attention to helping smaller practices achieve these goals.

“The AAN felt we needed to provide more assistance and guidance to private, small and solo practices that might not have the resources of these larger organizations,” said Dr. Elaine Jones, who spoke on this subject at the AAN’s recent annual meeting.

She emphasized the big impact that even the smallest practices can make on their patients and communities. In addition, making a practice more inclusive can encourage more new patient visits.

“It’s important we always remember that we are a business, and we live off referrals,” said Jones, who for many years ran a solo practice in Rhode Island. “Certainly, inclusion makes sense from a business standpoint, but it’s also the right thing to do.”

How to Make Your Waiting Room More Inclusive

Creating a welcoming environment starts in the waiting room, and you want show you support a variety of diverse lifestyles, Jones said.

Consider the following:

  • Keep TV and radio stations tuned to non-biased and inclusive channels
  • Subscribe to magazines that include racially and ethnically diverse images
  • Hang posters showing people from all walks of life and in a variety of relationships
  • Have literature and educational materials available in different languages
  • Have unisex bathrooms or use inclusive symbols

How to Update Forms & Other Paperwork

Next, think about the language used on your intake forms in particular. Is it inclusive of gender, sex, and alternative relationships? Jones encourages using non-judgmental terms.

Consider the following:

  • Instead of “marital status,” use “relationship status,” or add “partnered” as an option
  • Collect both legal name and preferred name
  • Ask for preferred pronouns
  • Include options for assigned gender and preferred gender

“These are things that are starting to become more commonplace,” Jones said. “And it sends a message that you’re aware that there are a variety of situations out there.”

Keep Learning

Making these changes will not mark the end of your work to toward reducing healthcare inequities, but they are a great start. Check out the many resources provided by the AAN on their IDEAS (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-racism, & Social justice) page to learn more.

Jones also recommends reaching out to the private practice section of the AAN. You can email them at

Elaine Jones, MD, FAAN is a neurologist who sits on the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Joint Coordinating Council (EDIJCC) of the American Academy of Neurology and chairs the Gender Disparities Work Group.